So if you’re getting into consulting or you’ve been running your own consulting business for a while, you’ll know that managing your time is one of the critical issues for you and your enterprise.
So I have a confession to make. I’m not a naturally good time manager.
However, over the two and a half decades I’ve spent in supply chain consulting, I have developed the disciplines necessary to manage my time effectively, and in this post, I’d like to share some insights to help you do the same.
What Should You be Spending Your Time On?
Are you thinking of hanging up your shingle as an independent consultant? Have you been running your consulting business for a little while? Either way, one of the things that you have to focus on is how you, as the owner, the director, the founder, or whatever, manage your time.
It’s crucial to your business’s success, so let’s explore what I believe should be the three primary focal areas for your time.
But first, let me explain why time management is such a big issue.
When starting your consulting business, you might be on your own or with a partner, and you end up doing everything—and that’s fine. That’s how a lot of small businesses start out. You end up doing all the various business functions, but that’s precisely why you can’t afford to waste your time.
You’ve got to focus on the things that will deliver the best value for you and your business—certainly in the early days. So what’s that going to be? That’s got to be one of the biggest mistakes of people transitioning from industry into consulting. Your absolute priority in the early days is to take care of two things: sales and delivery.
Sales Should be Your #1 Priority
Sales will get your business off the ground—they are the ONLY thing that will do so. But, unfortunately, I’ve seen too many people get into consulting, who, months and years later, can hardly keep their heads above water, and it’s always down to the same thing. It’s a lack of sales.
So if you’re not comfortable with sales or not good at sales, get good at it—because you will only be able to run a consulting business if you can generate sales effectively.
I’ll repeat it: you’ve got to be focusing on sales. Nothing matters more if you want your business to survive and thrive.
Service Delivery Should Be an Early Area of Focus
And then a very close second behind sales, almost as important, is service delivery because you need to deliver quality service to your clients early on to gain an outstanding reputation in the marketplace.
And if you’ve seen some of the videos on my Consulting Business School YouTube channel, you’ll know that the best way to grow your consulting business is to do outstanding work for your clients. That’s how to ensure clients keep asking you to work for them.
So delivery quality and sales are vital for your fledgling consulting business. But what about when you start to get some traction; then where should you spend your time?
Marketing is Next
Number two is marketing. It was 25 years ago that I started my consulting business. But back then, I’d go to all the networking things and do all kinds of stuff, trying to bring in new business.
When I look back on that now, 80% or 90% of it was a total waste of time.
What we focus on in my consulting business now is effective marketing, and these days, I have a business that punches above its weight in that regard. You’ve got to get that marketing going early. I recommend that you spend all your spare time on marketing.
Improving Process and Systems
Thirdly, as your business grows and matures, the third thing to focus on is the systems and processes within your operation.
If you’re a process-oriented person, you might not like that I see this as number three and not number one, but you’ve got to get the sales first. Then, you’ve got to get the delivery. And you’ve got to get the leads coming in.
Once things are stable, you can look at the systems and processes and work on making your back office and delivery more efficient, but it’s less critical in the early days.
Having superior methodologies and internal systems is excellent, but that’s only the best use of your time once you’re effectively making sales. That’s why process improvement is number three on my list of time management priorities.
Where’s the Money in That? A Very Good Question
When you’re looking at what you’re doing during the day, I guarantee you that as an owner of a consulting business, there are never enough hours in the day. It was 20 years in consulting before I started to ease back and delegate much more. But in terms of what you spend your time on, be critical.
Many years ago, a coach of mine had this great phrase about time management. His advice, when looking at your business activities, would be to ask yourself, “Where’s the money in that?”
So I recommend that when doing some of those meager-value admin tasks, you ask yourself that very question: “where’s the money in that?” Because typically, the money is always in sales, delivery, and marketing. It’s not in the back office stuff, certainly not in the early days.
Your Time Should Always Add Value
How much time should you spend on sales and delivery? Around 70% to 75% of your time would be realistic in the first year or two. As the business matures, you should have the opportunity to reduce the amount of personal time you spend on those disciplines.
For example, after 25 years, what percentage of my time is spent on sales and delivery? It’s about 30%. Of course, I have a much bigger team now.
As we’re an international consulting firm, I spend more time on business development in the broader sense, such as looking at new products and markets and developing people. But I’m not working 40 hours a week anymore. Indeed, I’ve recently cut back to four days a week, which is fantastic.
So anyway, the key message here is that I want you to look at what you’re spending your time on. There are enough hours in the day if you don’t fritter them away on non-value-adding tasks. So remember to be critical about the activities you involve yourself in personally, and keep asking yourself, “where’s the money in that?”
What do YOU Think?
Whether you’ve been consulting for a long time or are new to it, we’d love to see your comments below. What percentage of your working time do you spend on sales and service delivery?
One way to increase the time you have for these vital elements of consulting business management, is to engage a virtual assistant from Virtual Done Well to take on any non-value-adding tasks that are throttling your bandwidth. The VDW team is ready and waiting to help you, so get in touch now.
Even if you don’t wish to add a comment below, I hope you enjoyed this article. It’s based on a video that Rob O’Byrne recently posted on the Consulting Business School’s YouTube channel. So why not hop on over there and take a look?
It’s a great idea to subscribe to the channel, too, as there’s a wealth of helpful content to help you get your consulting business up and running—and Rob’s team adds new videos regularly.